Many modern husbands perform more domestic duties in the house than their fathers; certainly more than their grandfathers. There are exceptions, of course, but I am generalising. Even over time, I am pretty sure I do a little more now than I did in the earlier days of marriage. To be open and honest, I’m not a paragon of domestic help nor would I claim to be. I do much more than my father, no doubt, but my sisters’ husbands lend their hand more than me. At this stage of my hoary existence, I can claim that I clear the table each night after eating dinner, depositing any dishes into the dishwasher, and I do put away those items which can go directly into the fridge or a cupboard.
On שבת I become particularly domesticated. Friday nights I’m very quickly removing plates etc after each course and rallying others to assist (we’ve divided up courses between most of the children (my eldest daughter usually has some reason she can’t take part :-). This is repeated during the day, unless we have guests, when the expectation is that I’m transformed into a genial socialite who sits relaxed at the head of the table like the proverbial king of the castle. My more recent conversion to the cause of שבת domestication, has also attracted a good deal of skepticism. She who must be obeyed, together with progeny will claim that my motivation is flawed because my aim is to simply lessen the restful meandering and conversation mandated for a מנוחה oriented שבת meal, through targeted activities designed to hasten the rendezvous between my head and the hallowed pillow. I will admit that שבת is a great opportunity for me to avoid fiddling with my iPhone or iPad and all that whirs around us, and that the somnolent excitement concomitant with propping up in bed with a great book or ספר is quickly extinguished by the dull and thunderous drone of my expected snoring.
Now, contrary to the triumphant Meshichist who greeted me on Rosh Hashana with his finger-pointing to the Mikva, as if to intimate that as a non-believer I ought to consider a dip in the Mikva on Erev Rosh Hashana, I’ve always gone to the Mikva and have done so all my life. Greeting my entry to the Mikvah, however, was the ubiquitous sign beseeching us (men) to remember to perform (“do” is the usual verb) Eruv Tavshilin. It seemed like everywhere I went, there was another sign, an email reminder from a shule, or a klapp on the bimah all with the same message “Don’t forget to make/do Eruv Tavshillin”
Not withstanding that I’m arguably more domesticated now, as above, and not discounting the impact of “Master Chef” and other such programs that have attracted the interest of men to the culinary art of food preparation (once known by the more derogatory term “cooking”), I have never understand why in our day and age, Eruv Tavshilin is not performed by women.
Picture the scene, if you will. The עקרת הבית is busily making the finishing touches to delectable Yom Tov treats. The house is awash with people rotating in and out of the shower before donning their Yom Tov finery. The husband breathlessly comes back from work just before the clock strikes “Yom Tov”, brandishing flowers and/or the halachically mandated gift for his wife (that’s another story/saga) and he needs to “remember Eruv Tavshilin“. Or, if his wife is that ever diligent frumak, just as he steps into the shower, he hears that oh so gentle but thunderous voice innocently asking “have you done Eruv Tavshilin yet … it’s nearly Yom Tov”.
I don’t understand. It’s all about mixing up (Eruv) the preparation of some food which will be eaten on Shabbos with food that is being made for Yom Tov, so as to enable a halachic device designed to allow the cooking on Yom Tov for the שבת that is immediately to follow. Who is cooking? Who is mixing? Who will cook? Who will mix? What on earth has this to do with the husband?!? I surmise, and will readily accept more learned explanations, that the husband was roped into this job because in past times, women were largely uneducated and could not be expected to make non rote ברכות. But times have changed. I looked at this issue briefly and asked around and I haven’t had a good answer about why it should not be one of those religious acts that is the responsibility of the wife and not the husband. Hey, I haven’t even heard feminist types protesting that men have usurped this ברכה from their domain in another incursion of male domination. Why can’t women be מוציא the house to eat food prepared for שבת? After all, she is the one who does all the hard work.
My אשת חיל has always made the ברכה in our house and not thought anything of it until one fine evening surrounded by her fellow Tehillim Zoogers, some were moaning about how their husbands were prone to forget. Coming home, she “gently” suggested that perhaps in addition to me clearing the table, perhaps it is me who should be doing Eruv Tavshilin after all. I tried, in good faith, to argue that I felt (sincerely) that it was her role, and that my playing a part in this day and age was really artificial. From the twinkle in her eye, I am not sure I convinced her. Well, on Erev Rosh Hashana I stood next to her while she did it, and said “I’m happy to do it. I’m here … look … but I really think it’s not as real when the husband does it. I’m not sure if she believes me, but I think I’m getting there 🙂
And yeah, the Rebeztin should be able to do it for those who forget instead of the Rabbi too …
Oh, of course, in America (hat tip to anon) they have taken this to a new “level”